Jennifer Blake campaigning for PeckhamAlthough the latest by-election results saw the sad loss of a Liberal Democrat seat in Purbeck District Council in Dorset, the results in two other wards were quite encouraging.

The by-election in Lytchett Matravers was in Annette Brooke’s Mid Dorset and North Poole constituency, and was gained from the Conservatives for the first time last year. The by-election was caused by the sudden resignation of that same councillor for health reasons, and this (along with the national situation) conspired to help us lose the seat. However, a hard fought campaign with a good candidate and much regional support kept the swing down to just 5%. Sadly, this now means that the Conservatives move to be the largest party on a council where we have minority control.

In Derbyshire, we had an impressive 11% increase in our vote in a vacancy caused by the death of a local Independent. Sawley is a large village on the Nottinghamshire border and was once good territory for the party. This is the first time the local party has managed to run a campaign on this scale which included regular Focuses, surveys, postal vote letters and plenty of canvassing. As in Dorset, it was achieved thanks to lots of help from the surrounding area (a tip for other by-elections contests is to make sure people from outside of your area come and help). Although we didn’t win, the local party are pleased that their hardwork paid off and they got a result well beyond their highest expectations.

Finally, in Peckham in Southwark we ran another intensive campaign capitalising on the compelling life story of our candidate. Peckham born and bred, Jennifer Blake is a former gang member who has now turned her life around and runs a charity helping local young people get out of lives dominated by guns and gangs. Whilst this was a great campaigning opportunity and her personal story was a major part of the campaign, (much more so than the party she represented), our choice of candidate showed that our campaign was genuinely about the community and trying to improve the area. We were rewarded with the highest increase in the Lib Dem vote in a Labour held ward since July last year (the last being in Darlington).

It’s difficult these days to say “where you work you win,” as many councillors found out in May that working hard certainly doesn’t guarantee you victory anymore. However one thing that’s clear from this week’s by-elections is that running an intensive campaign that genuinely engages voters with issues they care about, (and with a candidate who they can relate to), certainly helps get you nearer to winning.

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